The tragic school massacre in Newtown, CT has once again thrust an even deeper issue than gun control into the national spotlight and that's the availability of mental health care, especially for children.
But according to the National Institute for Mental Health, research shows that half of all life-time cases of mental illness begin by age 14.
By working to understand the stages of a child's brain development, medical experts are able to learn more about mental disorders that appear later in life.
"I work with many adults who have such wounds from childhood that were never dealt with."
Katie Garcia is a therapist at The Center for Families in Shreveport. She says changes in behavior may not need therapy, but they almost certainly need attention from a parent or guardian.
"It warrants a conversation. Kids need to know that their parents are paying attention to them, that they care about what they're going through."
She says to find out everything you can about your child's symptoms. Those can include changes in appetite and sleep, social withdrawal, a sudden fear of everyday things, and self-destruction.
"These can signify that something is going on that needs further exploration."
Caddo Parish Schools Psychologist, Dr. Barzanna White, says if a child thinks they need help, they should never feel afraid to talk to someone at school who they trust.
"All they have to do is say to their teacher, you know, I'd really like to talk to somebody," says Dr. White.
Dr. White says counseling and behavior intervention services are always available at schools in Caddo Parish.
"We want to do some further investigation. Is there a pattern in terms of history, are there risk factors, are there precipitating factors?"
It's important to note that not all problems are serious enough to require medical attention. Everyday stresses can change a child's behavior temporarily.
Events like the birth of a sibling, a divorce, or death in the family can cause emotional distress, even in young kids.
If a child's symptoms last longer than a few weeks, though, experts say it may be time to seek professional help.
For more information about services available at The Center for Families, click here.